On the heels of Florida voters deciding to reinstate voting rights to felons that have served their sentences, Kentucky could soon face a similar debate with new legislation expected to be filed this week. Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey, of Louisville, expects to pre-file a bill that would restore voting rights to convicted felons once their sentence, including probation and parole, is complete. “When they have a job and they’re living and working in our community, they need a voice in that community,” McGarvey said. “That voice comes at the ballot box.” With the passage of Florida’s bill, Kentucky and Iowa became the only states in the country that do not restore voting rights in some manner at the completion of a sentence. In Kentucky, felons can only have the right restored via an executive pardon from Governor Matt Bevin.
“Unfortunately when Florida did that, they made us an outlier,” McGarvey said. “We’re one of the very few states that has such hurdles to allowing everyone to vote.”
The only conviction that would be excluded from McGarvey’s measure is voter fraud.
“When people have made a mistake, and they go to prison and they pay their debt to society, when they come out, they’ve paid that debt,” he said.
Just over nine percent of, or a little over 300,000, people can’t vote in Kentucky because of previous felony convictions according to a 2016 study from The Sentencing Project.